Monthly Archives: December 2012

5 myths put forward by supporters of fox hunting

I think I’ve heard most of the arguments put forward by the advocates of bloodsports and none of them stand up to scrutiny. Here are some of my favourites.

  1. Hunting foxes with a pack of hounds is an efficient method of pest control. This is perhaps the least convincing of the hunt lobby’s arguments because the numbers say otherwise. There will be any number of people on horseback, supported by dozens of hounds, all of which are chasing a single fox. Surely a single marksman with a rifle is a more efficient way to deal with the alleged problem. The fox hunters don’t seem to think so. The element of pest control is a convenient excuse that masks the true cost of the hunt and the cruelty exhibited towards the fox, which is torn to pieces by the pack of hounds. I would argue that the pest control defence has only been introduced to deflect attention away from the over-riding blood lust of the participants.
  2. People of all social backgrounds take part in hunting. To this point I would ask, “How many working class people can afford to own, stable and feed a horse and buy the clothing to participate in a hunt”? None, I would argue. The role of the working class in the hunts is limited to the support activities (blacksmithing, mucking out and so on). Traditional working class bloodsports like cock-fighting and badger-baiting were outlawed long ago. Fox hunting was allowed to continue until relatively recently.
  3. Fox hunting is an integral part of rural life. But then so are a great many other things like having to put up with poor public transport and isolation. Such things are of little concern to the Countryside Alliance, whose main objective is to campaign for a repeal of the Hunting with Dogs Act.
  4. Fox hunting is popular in the countryside. Urban dwellers don’t understand the ways of the country. Many people who live in the towns and cities used to live in the country and we understand the countryside better than you think. I grew up in the country and I saw hunting as cruel and barbaric and joined the Hunt Sabs as soon as I could.  In the past, many hunts have trespassed onto land that does not belong to them. Those farmers on whose land the hunts have trespassed do not find fox hunting endearing in any way shape or form.
  5. The ban on fox hunting is an example of the tyranny of the majority being imposed on the minority. The paedophile would doubtless make the same argument. The majority of us find child sexual abuse abhorrent. That isn’t “tyranny”, that’s a concern for the welfare of children. Indeed many farmers don’t see foxes as pests but as allies that, for example, keep rabbit numbers in check.

Here’s Julian Cope’s Reynard the Fox

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Filed under Animal rights, Society & culture

Dear Andrew Mitchell, this is what the cops are like. Welcome to the real world

So, Andrew Mitchell, you’ve finally learned what many of us knew all along: the police fit people up. Gone are the days of Dixon of Dock Green with his ready smile and “Evening all” catchphrase. But then, we all knew that Dixon was a fabrication, much like the cop’s “hard” evidence. Remember Derek Bentley on the roof of that warehouse in Croydon? You probably don’t. He said, “Let him have it, Chris” to Chris Craig but the police, who are also ever-so-good at grammar, told the court that Bentley had told Craig to shoot PC Miles. Craig fired the gun at Miles and he was killed. Bentley, who didn’t fire the pistol, was hanged for murder. Craig, who was a minor at the time, was not hanged. They called it “joint enterprise”.

You see, Andrew, for years those of us who come from working class backgrounds know what the police are like. The cop clipping a child “around the ear” was always more likely to be something far more brutal. They make up evidence. They lie in court. They destroy evidence linking them to any misdeeds. They don’t work for me and now you realize that they don’t work for you either. They look after themselves.

Derek Bentley was pardoned in 1993 after a 45 year long campaign, which included a film (Let Him Have It) and a song by Elvis Costello in 1989. Here’s the song. Sorry I couldn’t resist.

Andrew, you’re one lucky fella.  You’re not in the same boat as Bentley and the others who were executed or languished in prison on trumped up charges.

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Will anything ever be done about the blacklisting of trade unionists?

Whenever I hear someone tell me that we live in a “free country”, I laugh and I laugh long, loud and hard. Britain is a country in which people are spied on for being environmental activists and blacklisted if they are members of trade unions. The democratic process is corrupted by right-wing politicians who abolish county councils because they oppose government policy and they gerrymander constituency boundaries to stay in power. Those who speak out about abuses in high places are shut down or marginalized.

This is a country in which you cannot say what you like, even though you know it to be true, because some fat bastard with a fat wallet is going to threaten you with a libel/slander suit. This is a country where members of trade unions are blacklisted and denied employment opportunities because their union activity.

We may not live in what could be officially described as a police state but it’s pretty damned close. The roles that would be carried out by the official repressive apparatuses of the state are carried out, perversely enough, by private institutions like the defunct Economic League, which was succeeded by the Consulting Association. One could say that the Economic League, which was formed in the 1920s, never went away and simply changed its name. It also enjoyed close ties to the Conservative party. Indeed, Ian Kerr, a private investigator who had been hired by the league, worked for both groups. Kerr ran a illegal secret database of 3,200 workers in breach of privacy laws. Kerr died last week, Solfed reports,

His £50,000 a year salary + bonus + BUPA + Mercedes company car lifestyle, funded by the major UK construction firms including Sir Robert McAlpine, Balfour Beatty, Skanska, Carillion, Kier, BAM, AMEC and AMEY came to a halt

Building.co.uk tells us that Kerr

had been set to be a key witness on behalf of more than 80 former workers who are preparing to sue Sir Robert McAlpine in the High Court as part of a major compensation claim mounted by the Blacklist Support Group.

Sir Robert McAlpine, along with Balfour Beatty and Skanska, operated a blacklist for the 2012 Olympics.

Seumas Milne, writing in The Guardian last week says:

It’s now clear that workers across Britain have been systematically and illegally forced into unemployment for trade union activity – often on publicly funded projects and in collusion with the police and security services – by some of the country’s biggest companies, using secret lists drawn up by corporate spying agencies.

Liberty has equated blacklisting with phone hacking, insisting that the “consequences for our democracy are just as grave”. Keith Ewing, professor of public law at King’s College London, calls it the “worst human rights abuse in relation to workers” in Britain in half a century.

But would there be an inquiry? Not on Lord Snooty’s watch.

But whereas David Cameron ordered a public inquiry into hacking, he rejected any investigation of blacklisting out of hand. And while a mainly anti-union media has largely ignored the scandal, all the signs are that it’s continuing right now, in flagship public projects such as the £15bn Crossrail network across the south-east.

We shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that blacklisting is a recent phenomenon because it’s been taking place for the better part of 90 years. Indeed we can go back to 19th century classical liberal Britain, where early trade unionists were rounded up on trumped up charges and transported to Australia.

The role of the so-called radical Right should not be underestimated. The forerunner of The Freedom Association also had a close relationship with the league.

In the early 1970s there was an expansion and consolidation of the Radical Right. Amongst its new members was the Freedom Association, which had grown out of the “Private Army” movement associated with the conspiracies of the early seventies. Originally it seems to have been a demobilised version of Major General Walter Walker’s army – “Unison”. NAFF’s subsequent activities have been well documented; it specialises in maverick private prosecutions, and encouraging and funding legal actions.

The “maverick private prosecutions” included taking Greenpeace and the Labour Party to court in an attempt to eliminate them.

For the chinless right libertarians, this equates to “freedom”. It’s the freedom to make a profit at great human cost. It’s the freedom to to restrict the freedom of others to work or to seek work.

Reference

Hughes, M (1994), Spies at Work.
Available at: http://www.1in12.com/publications/library/spies/spies.htm. Accessed 15/12/12

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Filed under Conservative Party, Government & politics, Think Tanks

Spree-killings: mythology, hyper-masculinity and gun culture

Fess Parker as Davy Crockett, a figure that has been mythologized to create an image of American hyper-masculinity

To the best of my knowledge there have been no female spree-killers in the inglorious history of such things. You will know the by now familiar story of the lone gunman or pair of gunmen – in the case of Columbine – who, armed with freely available automatic weapons, visited death upon people going about their lives, be it in a school,a university campus or a shopping mall. I am not trying to denigrate the victims of the latest horrific shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, but the spree-killing seems to be, more or less, an American feature. Yes, such killings have happened in other countries but in the United States, it is an all too frequent occurrence.

When spree-killings have taken place – with the assailant often dead from a self-inflicted wound – the attention of the media and others tends to focus on the mental state of the murderer. That’s only to be expected. Why did the killer do this? Was there any event in their past that set off a chain of events that led to this point? There will be other such questions.

There will be questions, too, about the availability of guns, the largely misinterpreted Second Amendment and the rest of it, but for me, the gun is significantly iconic, if not in its highly mythologized role in the forging of a nation and in the capitalistic sense of defending one’s property, but also for its role in the construction of a hyper-masculine national identity that has become part of the national mythology but also an ideal of American masculinity.All of us are aware of the tales of derring-do about such figures as David “Davy” Crockett – who allegedly killed a “bar (bear) when he was only 3 years old”  – Jim Bowie (of knife fame) and Daniel Boone. Others, like the unfortunate but completely sociopathic, George Armstrong Custer, had their stories called into question relatively recently. The hapless Custer was famous for his tragi-comic “Last Stand” , which was mythologized out of all proportion by hagiographers, who swept aside Custer’s recklessness, vainglory and egomania to paint a story of “hero wronged”. These stories been woven into the massive tapestry of lies and half-truths that is America’s national narrative that’s a massive as The Bayeux  Tapestry.

Women, on the other hand, have been consigned to the margins of historical discourse. Betsy Ross may have created the Stars and Stripes but she was not given the vote. In fact, there is some doubt as to whether she created the flag at all. Other women, who featured in the early history of the United States are the first ladies, who are, for the most part, anonymous, save for a few of them.  Women like Carrie Nation and Susan B Anthony were not seen as women fighting for political rights, but as troublemakers and harpies. The macho early historians did their best to write women out of the historical narrative and they almost succeeded.

Yes, the gun can kill people and yes, I’ve heard the argument that “people kill people, guns don’t kill people”, which misses the wider cultural point altogether as well as the essential role of human agency in the firing of a weapon. But the national myths of a pioneering spirit, backed by the notion of rugged individualism has been embodied in the historically disconnected images of Boone, Bowie and Crockett and has been allowed to seep into the nation’s collective unconscious unchecked and unquestioned. It is this machismo that takes pride of place over anything else.

Guns are a distinctly male thing. Yes, women own guns and are members of gun clubs but there is a phallic element to the gun that appeals to the male. After all, a gun fires a projectile with the squeeze of a trigger. You can fire a gun again and again and not feel exhausted afterwards as one would if one had ejaculated in the same way. Thus, the lack of control exhibited by the premature ejaculator can be exchanged for the perfect control of firing a gun. Indeed, one can substitute one’s impotence with the reliable potency of a high calibre rifle. Just an idea.

These men are alienated from their societies, their families, their histories and their own bodies. Wilhelm Reich wrote:

The character structure of modern man, who reproduces a six-thousand-year-old patriarchal authoritarian culture, is typified by characterological armoring against his inner nature and against the social misery which surrounds him. This characterological armoring is the basis of isolation, indigence, craving for authority, fear of responsibility, mystic longing, sexual misery, and neurotically impotent rebelliousness, as well as pathological tolerance. Man has alienated himself from, and has grown hostile toward, life.

My bold. The young male who feels a sense of powerlessness  about himself is likely to have been alienated from society in one or more ways. This is not helped by the highly-mediated images of the ideal male that pour from our television screens and from the pages of magazines. When redundancy strikes and there is no prospect of work, the only way out for some men is to kill themselves.  Indeed, men are more likely to commit suicide than women. It is possible that the men in question may have a feeling of emasculation as well as alienation. Male suicides are at their highest during economically difficult times. We may congratulate ourselves for our technological achievements, but this has come at great cost to society. In so-called primitive cultures, there is a rite of passage for young people of both sexes, this does not happen in the industrialized nations. Is there a reason for this?

Instead, many American children, particularly boys, are taught how to handle a gun from an early age – which, together with hazing, passes for a rite of passage.  To reinforce this, there are images of guns everywhere and most Hollywood films seem to feature them.  The gun, the phallic symbol of American culture, is at once a venerated icon of freedom and a weapon of mass destruction.

The Columbine killers were said to have been influenced by The Matrix and even though there is a female lead in the character of Trinity, she is a masculinized female, who totes guns and beats up men… well, representations of men. It’s almost as if, men cannot deal with real women and have to transform them into ersatz men.

I am not making excuses for Adam Lanza or any of the other spree-killers but I think that the highly masculinized culture of the United States is, at least, partly to blame for the recurrence of this kind of tragedy.

The fact that Lanza killed children and, more tellingly, women (including his mother) makes this all the more horrific. But it also tells us something else: a society that prizes the masculine over the feminine is a very ill society.  Sadly, this is the case with the majority of nations, which are run along patriarchal lines. But it’s worse in the United States (and quite possibly Australia) where machismo is an essential part of the nation’s culture. What we really need is a balance between male and female.

Finally, the response of the gun lobby has been predictable but characteristically lacking in critical thinking. The NRA and others argue that if the children and teachers been armed, this would never have happened. That is plainly absurd: it is a stage on the road to another arms war. It also sends a message that might is right and violence can always be met with violence.

Reference

Reich, W. (1973).  The Function of the Orgasm. London: Souvenir Press

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Filed under 19th century, History, History & Memory, United States

The state-sponsored murder of Pat Finucane: the British state plays semantics

Pat Finucane: murdered by proxies of the British security apparatus

Pat Finucane: murdered by proxies of the British security apparatus

Pat Finucane was a Belfast civil rights lawyer who successfully challenged Britain’s human rights abuses in Northern Ireland. This is something that rankled with the state and Loyalist supporters. In 1989, Finucane was killed by UDA gunmen, one of whom was informer Ken Barrett, with the collusion of the British security services. The gunmen sprayed the Finucane’s home as the family were finishing their dinner. Finucane was killed by 14 bullets, his wife was also wounded in the attack.

Earlier this week, Sir Desmond de Silva’s report into Finucane’s murder concluded that the British state colluded with the killing but was not involved in a conspiracy. I would truly like to believe that there was no conspiracy but something tells me that would be naïve, given the dirty nature of the conflict and the cycle of violence that accompanied it. We know about the Loyalist death squads and we also know that the British security services (along with the Royal Ulster Constabulary and Ulster Defence Regiment) passed information onto these Loyalists. If that isn’t a conspiracy, then I’m the Lyin’ King.

The Loyalist paramilitaries: the UDA, the UFF, the UVF, the Red Hand Commando and others acted as an unofficial repressive state apparatus carrying out murders on behalf of the British state. Loyalist violence was only ever condemned through clenched teeth by the authorities.

On Wednesday, David Cameron offered a mealy-mouthed apology for Finucane’s murder but for the family and those who seek justice, it was not enough. Loyalist death squads were given carte blanche by the British authorities to carry out targeted murders. Beatrix Campbell writing in The Guardian says,

Those running the RUC, the army, the Northern Ireland Office and the Joint Intelligence Committee – later to become a household name during the Iraq war debacle – regarded the loyalists as a vital but disreputable rabble. So the army’s Force Research Unit enlisted an ex-soldier, Brian Nelson, to streamline the UDA’s killing machine. De Silva describes Nelson as “to all intents and purposes a direct state employee” – a remarkable admission. MI5 used him to orchestrate arms shipments from South Africa to distribute among loyalists. The state, it seems, took control of re-tooling the paramilitaries.

Not a conspiracy? Please, pull the other one.

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Filed under Human rights, Northern Ireland

What’s the deal with fracking?

I was listening to the Today programme and they were discussing fracking and how Gid had lifted the moratorium on explorations for shale gas.

Some see fracking as the answer to our energy needs and point to the United States where it has resulted in cut price gas. But the US is possibly one of the worst examples to use as a defence, because of the reported cases of water pollution. In this country, fracking has caused 2 minor earthquakes in the Blackpool area.

The likes of Delingpole love the idea of fracking but then, he gets moist at the thought of left-wing activists being tortured to death by goons who can barely read and write. Such is the short-sighted nature of the frackers that they would put the health of millions of people at risk for a short-term, possibly negligible gain.

Defenders of the current capitalist system love to tell us how it is the only system that inspires innovation and rewards risks. I say that’s bullshit: the current capitalist system ignores the health and well-being of the people by its relentless pursuit of profit at all costs. Innovation can happen without this form of capitalism. Then there’s the capitalist’s short-sightedness that blinds them to the long term consequences of their actions. They prefer to make money quickly and let someone else clean up the mess, while denying they had anything to do with whatever catastrophe they’ve caused. That’s because the love of money means you never have to say you’re sorry.

Here’s an animation.

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Filed under Media, propaganda

Greenhalgh accused of “inappropriate behaviour”

Stephen Greenhalgh’s time at City Hall has been marked by controversy since he took the role of Deputy Mayor for Policing in May, now he’s been accused of inappropriate behaviour.

The incident occurred in a lift when Greenhalgh allegedly patted a woman’s bottom. First he denied it, then he admitted to it but then claimed the Ernest Saunders defence of “I don’t remember”.

If found guilty, Greenhalgh’s days at City Hall could be numbered, which means that he’ll end up back here in Hammersmith & Fulham.

Adam Bienkov has more here.

Once again, Bozza’s judgement has been called into question. At the beginning of his first term, he lost 2 Deputy mayors in quick succession. it looks like another one is for the chop.

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